Having an estate plan in order as soon as possible can reduce the stress of those who are tasked with administering the estate and following a person's final wishes. When documents are properly prepared and organized, it enables beneficiaries to get their inheritance sooner rather than later. If the last wishes of a California resident are not stated or are unclear, it could result in messy legal battles that could cost a lot of money to sort out.
There are a few ways for people to get their affairs in order before they die. The first step is to create a will or a trust that will contain instructions for how assets are to be distributed upon that person's death. Other information such as insurance documents, investment account information and contact numbers for lawyers and other important people who may need to be contacted or who can be of help during a possible probate process should be readily accessible.
Finally, it is important to let heirs know where all the documents are. Whether they are kept in a shoe box or kept in an electronic folder, they are useless if no one knows how to find them. However, it is not recommended that they are kept in a safe deposit box because it may be difficult for a third party to access them.
Estate planning is easier when a plan is created by a maker who is young and of sound mind. This can help prevent future challenges to the will in probate court. In the absence of a valid will or trust, the distribution of a decedent's assets would be governed by state intestacy law, which may not correspond to the decedent's wishes. Those who need help with the estate planning process may wish to consult with an attorney who has experience in such matters.
Source: TIME, "Want Less Stress? Get Your Estate Plan In Order", Beth Pinsker, July 15, 2014